Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Avoid This Basic Clash When Running Your Business

Perhaps the biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur, especially a service providing solotrepreneur, is the conflict that inevitably arises between keeping your marketing efforts going and serving the business that such efforts yield. Generally, in the beginning, everything is focused toward generating income-producing business. But once a sufficient amount comes in, the marketing efforts stop in order to take care of the clients. But once these jobs are completed marketing has to be ramped up again, often coinciding with a drop in income.

Avoid This Basic Clash When Running Your Business

For the first few years, I was in business I was caught in this seeming tug of war between marketing and serving clients. It was extremely frustrating especially since I felt I was always losing momentum while suffering through large swings in cash flow.

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I finally learned several lessons that helped me conquer this predicament:

  1. Marketing must never stop. Whether you are working alone or have a staff to service clients, your number one priority is to keep the marketing effort, and thus the flow of business going.
  2. The longer the lag time between acquiring a new client and getting paid, the more important consistent marketing is. Real estate agents have to constantly keep their pipeline filled because often there are several months between getting a client and closing a transaction. Also, many transactions are time consuming. It is tempting to be fooled into thinking that as long as you are busy working on deals you need not worry about marketing, But once all the escrows close, if you are starting essentially from scratch the commissions from the prior deals may not carry you through to the next batch of closings.
  3. Only a mature business can consider relying solely on referrals. Once you develop a reputation for quality work you will receive a lot of referrals. But changes in your industry may necessitate your still marketing for new business since mergers and clients going out of business often mean that referral sources wane or have to be courted again.
  4. Make your marketing efforts scalable. Whatever techniques you are using, be it networking groups, cold-calling, or social media, make sure that you can easily increase or reduce your time commitment so that you are consistently doing the same things while adjusting the volume. For example, early in your business, you might devote two or three hours a day to cold-calling. But as more of your time must be devoted to serving clients, rather than stopping just scale back your calling plan.
  5. Delegate your least productive servicing and marketing efforts. Determine which activities need to be sustained but generate the lowest return on investment, then, rather than stopping them, turn them over to an assistant. Interaction with clients, existing and potential, is probably the most fruitful use of your time. Once you thoroughly understand the less profitable tasks you can train someone to handle them.

Rather than being disheartened by the constant roller coaster of no business/ramp up marketing effort and too much business/stop all marketing, devise a plan that from the start has you consistently pursuing new business while providing excellent service to clients.

Question – What ideas do you have that would allow you to constantly pursue new business while giving the kind of service that will engender client loyalty?

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The Oldest New Concept in Entrepreneurship

Still looking for that brilliant idea that will guarantee your success in business? They are out there. And when someone unearths one and makes it successful they achieve tremendous wealth and fame. If this is your goal, by all means, keep looking.

But if you want greater flexibility to run your life, the ability to support your family, and less bureaucracy in your work environment read on.

The Oldest New Concept in EntrepreneurshipAfter 10 years running a small management company I found that numerous businesses like mine were being bought up because running them the way they had always been run was no longer profitable. Frankly, I had never had a great passion for property management. I was keen about eating, having a roof over my head, and many other things. I had two choices: innovate or sell.

Another 10 years later I did sell. By that time I was handling $25 million worth of property from my laptop. Wherever I had Internet access, be it a hotel room or Coffee Bean, I could take care of business. In these days of personal hotspots, I could have run it from the beach. My company was highly profitable because I substantially streamlined an administration-intensive business and made it virtually paperless.

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Dr. Samuel Johnson and Christopher Booker maintain there are only seven plots for literature and movies. To a large extent, that same can be said of businesses. Consider the following:

  • An online store is only today’s version of the Montgomery Ward catalog.
  • Blogging is just the latest means of pamphleteering and Twitter an even more up to date way.
  • Facebook is an asynchronous party line where you, instead of the telephone company, choose who listens to your calls.

The Internet is called a revolution. In reality, it allowed old ideas to be modernized.

Flourishing as an entrepreneur does not take genius or a unique idea. You need only find a way to do or make something better than your competition. Real estate agents at Century 21 The Masters are tops in the country because they are trained to concentrate intensely on the needs of people buying and selling homes.

Most successful entrepreneurs take a proven business and change something about it to gain a competitive edge such as:

  • Make a service more consumer-friendly. Mike Diamond plumbers show up at a specific time and are clean and well groomed. They get a premium over plumbers that only give a window during which they will show up and wear dirty clothes.
  • Handle business more efficiently. I leveraged off-the-shelf technology to save time, office supplies, postage, and many other resources. As a result, I could focus on my clients.
  • Offer greater choice. When you buy an iPhone you get a white charger and cable. But at Los Angeles Air Force Base there is a kiosk that has them in a rainbow of colors. At least two people are making money offering more choices than Apple does: the manufacturer and the vendor.

My success in property management came because I am very good at organization and efficiency not because I was brilliant at real estate. You can succeed by applying the skills at which you excel to a proven business. This is the surest path to entrepreneurial triumph.

Question – Where can you apply your expertise to improve the way a business is done?

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How to Find a Job You Can Never Lose

Job security in the military, though not what it was a few of years ago, is one of the biggest benefits in this demanding profession. The path to advancement is well defined. Even today, if you are reasonably focused you have a good chance of staying in long enough to earn a pension. Government work seems secure.  But with annual budget battles and sequestrations, you won't find stability there either. In the private sector, it's virtually unknown. But there is another option.

How to Find a Job You Can Never Lose

For twenty years before joining the navy, I never worried about being fired. Why would I terminate myself? I knew my strengths and weaknesses and made sure I worked with others who complimented my abilities. Being self-employed gave me job security that I never had working for someone else.

Entrepreneurship is the ultimate employment guarantee. While occasionally you'll lose a client, necessitating a temporary reduction of your compensation, once you find a new client you can raise it. Over time you can make sure you always have a job and direct your work into areas you find stimulating while hiring others to do the tasks you aren't interested in any longer. You control your pay and benefits as well as your work environment.

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The learning curve can be steep. But once you have internalized the fundamentals of starting and running a business you will wonder why you ever thought about running the risk of working for someone else who could lay you off or fire you.

Question – Which do you think is more secure: working for someone or working for yourself?

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How Fortune Might Come to You

Amidst the debate over whether cursive writing should be taught in schools, Luca Barcellona has spent three years per classic script to become a master at the age-old art of calligraphy. Having begun college in the pre-digital age, by the time he graduated computers had taken over. Repulsed by them he essentially rebelled. Yet having become an artist, he is embracing technology by giving it a distinctly analog, human touch.

How Fortune Might Come to You

Reading Signor Barcellona’s story, I was struck by the idea that despite the boom in social media, touch screens, and synthesized voices, technology still has a cold touch. The study of history has probably never been more popular. Nostalgia products, most notably soda pop, candy, and snacks, are in great demand. There is opportunity in blending technology with the tactile and crafted. The Internet gave us Web 1.0, social media Web 2.0. Will this be the idea behind Web 3.0?

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Question: How can technology be humanized?

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Are You Prepared to Profit from Defunct Businesses?

Destruction. Commonly thought of as negative, your success as an entrepreneur rests on embracing destruction.

Capitalism embodies the dichotomy of creative destruction: the necessity that outmoded businesses and inefficient practices will be replaced.

Undoubtedly today everyone agrees there is no reason for companies to make buggy whips since automobiles are the standard mode of personal transportation. But at the time, manufacturers and their employees doubtlessly bemoaned the declining demand and eventual demise of whips.

We are in the midst of what may turn out to be a similar situation. Ever more people get their news online or in digital format. Many newspapers and magazines have seen their print circulation drop substantially or ceased publishing them. In another 20 years will even the most popular periodicals: The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The New York Times, all with daily circulations exceeding 1.5 million, still issue print editions? Reporters may not be impacted, but what about newsprint and ink suppliers, manufacturers of presses, and the people employed in the process?

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As much as I deplore the collapse of printed media, I will discourage my daughter from pursuing a living in this industry or any other that is declining. Rather, I will urge her to examine the opportunities created by the destruction of businesses. Indeed, her greatest chance for success will come specifically because she can replace that which has been demolished.

Herein lies your challenge. Betting on the destruction of a product or industry is by no means a sure thing. Compounding this issue can be your reluctance to accept such demise. Yet the increase in nostalgia products is not necessarily a function of a lack of creativity on the part of product designers. It appears that the more things change the more people yearn for the familiarity of the past. Where then does true opportunity lie?

How you answer this question may determine your entrepreneurial success.

Question – In what waning product or industry do you see opportunity?

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